Lois Cooper Oral History

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Dublin Core


Lois Cooper Oral History


The first person in her family to graduate from high school, Lois Cooper originally went to Tougaloo College in Mississippi to study law. She discovered that she preferred working with numbers and eventually graduated in 1954 with a degree in Mathematics from Los Angeles State College. In 1953 she became the first African-American woman to work for the California Department of Transportation (CALTRAN), where she began as an engineering aide. She progressed in her career, eventually becoming a Transportation Engineer and Project Manager for major transportation projects including the I-105 Century Freeway, as well as heading the Public Information department and the newly minted Civil Rights department in the 1970s. During her time at CALTRAN, Cooper visited over 100 classrooms to promote engineering to all young people.

Cooper became a student member of the Society of Women Engineers in 1978 while taking post-graduate classes at California State University in Los Angeles. She went on to serve as the counselor for that section, co-chaired the Los Angeles Section's career guidance committee, and was elected the SWE College of Fellows in 1990. The only female member when she joined in 1971, Cooper became the first woman president of the LA Council of Black Professional Engineers. She works with the Council to encourage African-Americans to pursue engineering and continues to offer math and science tutoring on the weekends. She is also a Fellow of the Institute for the Advancement of Engineering.

Oral History Item


Deborah Rice


Cooper, Lois

Date Recorded



Detroit, MI; 1930's-1967


“Lois Cooper Oral History,” Michigan Oral History Database, accessed June 13, 2024, http://www.database.michiganoha.org/items/show/1884.

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